Background

We may connect the book of Ruth with Judges (as the Septuagint does) because of its close association with that time in Israel’s history.1The introductory information on this page has been adapted from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Middler Isagogic Notes, which can be found here. Used with permission. The first verse reads: “In the days when the judges ruled…” The last word of Ruth is “David,” the book closing with a genealogy pointing to Israel’s great king. Keil supposes that the book comes out of the times prior to Gideon, and that the famine mentioned in verse 1 was caused by the invading, ravaging Midianites.2Keil, Carl Friedrich, and Franz Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996. As the book’s story comes out of that time of the judges, it is reassuring to know that all was not war, strife, and godlessness!

Authorship

The author of the book of Ruth is unknown. The Talmud ascribes its authorship to Samuel. Archer is of the opinion that it must have been written at the same time as Judges.3Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2007. Harrison favors a later period because customs are rather carefully explained, customs which people at the time of the judges would have been acquainted with (Ruth 4:1-12). Some critics, such as Wellhausen, point to the use of alleged Aramaisms as proof for a much later date of authorship. Albright suggests as late as 500 to 400 BC. The Aramaisms in Ruth, however, are few if any. The “Aramisms” may simply be more colloquial Hebrew, words from the West Semitic stock not used as frequently in other books.

Purpose for Writing

The book of Ruth has several well-defined purposes:

1. Messianic – To show how King David, the Savior’s ancestor, came from a Moabitess (Ru 4:17-23; Mt 1:5). God arranges apparently insignificant details in the interests of his marvelous plan of salvation.  In this connection the picture of “kinsman-redeemer”, which occurs as an important item in the book’s story, serves as a Messianic type: a blood relative, able to pay the price of redemption, willing to buy back a forfeited inheritance. Boaz was such a kinsman-redeemer (cf. Ruth 2:20 and Job 19:25).

2. Mission-focused – To foreshadow the enlarged blessings to come to the Gentiles. Already in Old Testament times salvation was not intended only for the Jews!

3. Devotional – Ruth gives us an outstanding example of family devotion, and Boaz is a person who has a respect for obligations and a deep sense of responsibility, motivated by God-inspired love. This shows that God still has faithful people in Israel, even at the time of the judges.  Ruth’s words to her mother-in-law have often been used as an illustration of self-sacrificing love and compared to that love which should exist between husband and wife in marriage, a love which is centered in a unity of faith (Ruth 1:16-17).

Thus Ruth serves as a sort of antidote to the book of Judges.

Date of Writing

Keil states that the book was undoubtedly written at the time of the early monarchy since the genealogy of David indicates that King David was a well-known person at the time when Ruth was written.4Keil, Carl Friedrich, and Franz Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996. We are inclined to agree with this opinion as a reasonable assumption, though this genealogy may have been added as an appendix to a family story composed earlier.

Christ Connection

The connection between Ruth and Christ is an easy one to trace because Matthew does it for us (Mt 1:5-16). Ruth was the great grandmother of King David and ancestor of Jesus. We also see a connection to Jesus’ work in the book of Ruth. Just as Boaz was a kinsman-redeemer, Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer. He is our blood relative—fully a human being. Only his life could pay the price for our freedom from sin, so he willingly paid the price for our freedom when he died on the cross. So even though the name “Jesus Christ” is not mentioned in this book, we see an example of his work in the form of Boaz, we see God’s love for all nations, and we see how God cared for and protected Jesus’ ancestors for the sake of the promise of salvation.

Notable Passages

  • Ruth 1:16-17
  • Ruth 2:20; 3:9; 4:14

Outline

The story of Ruth divides itself well according to chapters:

  1. Ruth comes to Bethlehem.
  2. Ruth meets Boaz.
  3. Ruth appeals to Boaz for help.
  4. Ruth and Boaz are married, and become part of David’s ancestral line.

References   [ + ]

1. The introductory information on this page has been adapted from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Middler Isagogic Notes, which can be found here. Used with permission.
2, 4. Keil, Carl Friedrich, and Franz Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996.
3. Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2007.